Restaurant Review – Las Cuatro Milpas

by on April 17, 2013 · 15 comments

in Culture, Editor's Picks, Food & Drink

Las Cuatro Milpas
1875 Logan Ave. (Cesar E. Chavez Pkwy.)
San Diego, CA 92113
619-234-4460

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By Judi Curry

In a way, it grieves me to be writing this review because Las Cuatro Milpas is one of my very favorite Mexican Restaurants and it is already so busy I hate to know that others reading this review will want to get in their car and drive down to Barrio Logan immediately.

But before you do, check the time because they open at 8:30am and close at 3:00pm, UNLESS they run out of food and close earlier.

The first time I went to this wonderful, small – much smaller then than now – was in 1966.  My husband and I stood in line for almost 35 minutes, next to the then-mayor and Police Chief of San Diego. The line stretched almost around the block then – and still does today.(New people stand in line now – they served all the “old ones.”)

Petra and Nati

Petra and Nati

There is a very limited menu – don’t expect “Taco Bell” because it isn’t – but their Chorizo, beans and rice is excellent. Go there for breakfast and have an “huevo” (egg) on top.  Their tacos are great! And their tortillas are the “old fashioned” kind – cooked in lard.  The restaurant was owned by Petra and Nati who, by any standards, were “seniors” back then.  When they passed on it was taken over by their children, and later by THEIR children, and I believe still another generation runs it today.

Today I took Frank from my physical therapy office to try it out. He hasn’t lived in San Diego long, and actually lives off of 10th Avenue, but had never ventured south of his  apartment.  He had a jaundiced opinion, no doubt because of the reputation that the Barrio had many years ago.  It has cleaned up tremendously.  I never was fearful of going to Las Cuatro Milpas, and Chewy’s, or any other restaurant in the Barrio Logan area during the day, but now I think I would not be fearful of going at night.

The Menu

The Menu

Although we didn’t get there until after 1:00pm, there was still a line, albeit much shorter than the 11:30-12:30 line; parking was easier; and finding a table to sit at was easy.  Even when we left at 1:45pm there was still a small line of patrons waiting to place their order.

There is no printed menu, per se. The menu is on a board above the cooking area lists everything they have to offer.  When you first walk in to the restaurant fresh cooked tortillas are available, just waiting for you to pick up a package to take home with you. The ladies behind the counter are all busy; cooking; placing orders; helping another grandmother ring up the order.

Chorizo, rice and bean bowl with tacos

Chorizo, rice and bean bowl with tacos

I ordered 8 tacos to go – after all, it was Tuesday, and I read an article a few weeks ago on this site (eds note- on April Fools Day!) that the health department was thinking of closing up Taco Tuesday joints because they were unfair to other ethnic restaurants, so I wanted my students at home to enjoy tacos. I also ordered a kilo of freshly made flour tortillas.  Additionally, I ordered a bowl of chorizo, rice and beans and one taco to eat there, and a bottle of water to drink.  Frank ordered 2 taco’s and a diet Dr. Pepper, and our total bill – with the take-out, just under $30.

The line coming in

The line coming in

And were they good!  The tacos were crispy, well cooked, and served with lettuce and hot sauce. There does not seem to be any change in the recipe for the chorizo bowl over the 47 years I have eaten it there.  I know why people go there over and over. Even Frank said now that he knew where it was he’d go back again.

I know that I will go back again – in fact – I will be there this Friday with all three of my daughters – for old time sake – and because the cravings hit all of us at one time. Come join us. You will be so glad that you did.  And if you do go – earlier is better. The line isn’t so long.

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Judi Curry

High school dropout who decided to show the educational community what learning is all about. If it's the status quo something's wrong with it and I'll scratch the itch!
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avatar Ro April 17, 2013 at 7:24 am

Sorry that MK and I didn’t join you, but I had a one p.m. appointment and knew I wouldn’t be able to make it through the lines in time. What time on Friday because I have been craving Las Cuatros Milpas since you told me you were going there. Their rice and beans with tortillas……food of the Goddesses. So good and satisfying. If you haven’t been, you must go and do pick up some tortillas (or pre-order them because they go fast).

avatar Dorothy Lee April 17, 2013 at 9:03 am

The irony: two lard-saturated tacos and a diet drink. Sugar is more easily metabolized than lard!

avatar Brent Beltran April 17, 2013 at 9:33 am

But lard tastes yummy!

avatar judi April 17, 2013 at 10:17 am

Funny, Brent. That was my comment too. I guess a little bit of lard won’t hurt. Of course, I do have the kilo of tortilla’s here that will have to be eaten!

avatar Goatskull April 17, 2013 at 9:53 am

As crazy as this sounds, I actually like the taste of diet better than regular.

avatar Carlos April 17, 2013 at 4:31 pm

Diet drinks don’t have sugar; they have chemicals, which don’t digest. ;-)

avatar Goatskull April 17, 2013 at 9:53 am

I love this place but yeah the one proplem is their hours.

avatar Brent Beltran April 17, 2013 at 10:24 am

It’s not a problem for them. They get all the business they can handle and sometimes more during their operating hours. Sometimes they close the door early because they’ve been there since 6:30am and want to go home.

avatar Carlos April 17, 2013 at 4:40 pm

I’ve been going there since 1967. Many moons ago, my brother and a couple of friends drove down (250 mile round-trip) for the weekend and we took them to lunch. The following weekend, the friends returned – just for lunch! (Gas was cheaper then.) A few years ago, I was working with a Mexican-American guy, and local San Diegan, who’d never been to LQM. We went on a Friday for lunch (early) and did our 20-30 minutes in line. He was back on Saturday – wife, kids, parents and in-laws.

Last time we were there, we sat at a table with a guy from Fresno, CA. He left San Diego a few years ago, but says any time he’s in town, he will make at least one trip to Las Quatro Milpas for lunch.

avatar judi April 17, 2013 at 5:25 pm

No question in my mind, Carlos. LQM is one of the best restaurants in San Diego. There are no pretensions. What you see is what you get, and it is pretty spectacular. It is amazing who (m) you meet there.

avatar La Loganera April 18, 2013 at 5:50 pm

It’s CUATRO! Not Quatro. Sheesh! LCM! -barrio denizen & Spanish language stickler

avatar Michael April 21, 2013 at 6:28 am

LARD “the great misunderstood fat.” Lard, just 40 percent saturated fat (compared with nearly 60 percent for butter). Its level of monounsaturated fat (the “good” fat) is a very respectable 45 percent double butter’s paltry 23 or so percent.

avatar Dorothy Lee April 22, 2013 at 7:04 pm

So, lard is getting rebranded? Call it Shea butter, to promote BL? Next time you are at LCM, ask the Estudillo family if they are ready to pay $1803/year on their property tax bill for an assessment district. That’ll buy a lotta lard.

And…You should really study the chemistry of fats: polyunsaturated, monounsaturated, total fat in diet…and read about how industrial lard is obtained. It makes me queasy. No one cooks tortillas in butter, anyway. The choice is between liquid seed-based oils, and lard fat that solidifies at room temp and in your arteries. You really do NOT want to be eating lard, because you don’t have to. Great-tasting food can be prepared w/o it. Lard is cheap. It yields profits to restaurants. And cardiac surgeons. That’s why you don’t want to eat it more than once a year, or so.

avatar Doug Porter April 22, 2013 at 7:48 pm

Here’s a balanced article on the subject from NPR:
Sure, lard is healthier if you compared it to partially hydrogenated vegetable oils like Crisco, according to Tong Wang, a lipid chemist and professor in the department of food sciences and human nutrition at Iowa State University. But that’s not to say that lard is better than highly unsaturated omega-3 oils, like olive oil, which are considered the healthiest fats out there. “All are relative,” she told The Salt in an email. “And the big question is quantity!”

If the lard is consumed as part of pork, she explained, and in moderation, then it’s fine. But replacing healthy oils with lard, and eating a lot of it, would be a bad idea.

Lard partisans also note that unprocessed lard typically is made up of about 45 percent monounsaturated fats, which are considered heart healthy.

Wang is not swayed by that argument. Lard also has cholesterol, she notes, as do all animal fats. And that 45 percent fat can still be a lot, depending on how much you eat.

Add to this that lard sold in supermarkets is often hydrogenated, to make it shelf stable, and you’ve got a product with cholesterol, trans fats, and saturated fat, too. Oh my.

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2012/05/02/151868208/lard-is-back-in-the-larder-but-hold-the-health-claims

You can buy un-hydrogenated lard in many of the Latino markets around town. Enjoy it in moderation.

avatar judi April 22, 2013 at 7:55 pm

Thanks, Doug. You wear many hats!

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